If you slip and fall, and you are injured due to a wet floor or a curled-up carpet or floor mat at a shopping mall, a restaurant, or a supermarket, can you recover compensation for your injuries? The answer is “probably,” but you’ll need help from a Jefferson County slip-and-fall attorney.
To recover compensation for your medical expenses, your lost wages, and related damages, you and your attorney will have to prove not only that the property owner was negligent but also that the property owner’s negligence directly caused your personal injury or injuries.
What is required to prove that a property owner was negligent? What if you’re injured in a slip-and-fall accident on public property or at your place of work? You may find the answers you need if you’ll keep reading this brief discussion of slip-and-fall injuries, the law, and your rights.
However, no two cases are alike, so if you’re injured in a slip-and-fall accident in the St. Louis area or anywhere in the state, you’ll need personalized legal advice – and an explanation of how the law applies to your own case – from a Jefferson County premises liability lawyer.
Take These Steps After a Slip-and-Fall Accident
Seek medical attention at once if you’re injured tripping or slipping and falling. You will need the medical paperwork from that treatment and care if you bring a premises liability claim to recover damages for your lost income and medical expenses.
Take photographs of the location where you slipped or tripped and fell, or ask someone to take photos for you. Prevailing with a premises liability claim usually means proving that the property owner (or manager) was aware or should have been aware of the danger that caused your injury.
What is Required to Recover Compensation?
A successful premises liability lawsuit requires the injury victim (or “plaintiff”) and his or her lawyer to prove these “elements” of the claim:
- The “defendant” (the property owner) owed a “duty of care” to the plaintiff.
- The property owner’s negligence was a breach of the duty of care.
- The breach of that duty is the reason why the plaintiff was injured.
What Defines a Breach of the Duty of Care?
Property owners in Missouri must take reasonable measures to prevent slip-and-fall injuries from happening on their properties. How can a property owner breach his or her duty of care to visitors? There are a variety of ways the duty may be breached, but here are some examples:
- not informing visitors about a dangerous dog
- not removing hazards and debris from areas with public access
- not cleaning up a floor – quickly – where a liquid has been spilled
- not securing a pool area to prevent entry by children
Owners, of course, cannot be held liable for every conceivable injury that may happen on their premises. If you walk into someone’s barbecue pit or pool because you were looking at your phone, that’s your fault, not a property owner’s.
When is a Property Owner Liable?
In slip-and-fall cases, if the owner of a property could have kept a slip-and-fall from happening but didn’t, even after knowing about the situation and having enough time to fix it, that owner may be held accountable and ordered by a Missouri court to pay compensation to the victim.
Of course, a victim and his or her attorney must prove that an actual injury happened. That’s one reason why you must have an immediate medical examination after a slip-and-fall incident. If you fall on a slippery floor in a restaurant, but you walk away unharmed, there is no case.
The statute of limitations – the deadline for filing a claim arising from a slip-and-fall injury case that involves private parties only – is five years from the date the injury occurred, but you should not wait even five weeks to talk to a Jefferson County slip-and-fall attorney.
There are several narrow exceptions to the rule if you’ve missed the five-year deadline, so you should still speak to an attorney, but if your injury is recent, your attorney needs to examine the evidence while it’s fresh and speak to the witnesses quickly, before their memories fade.
How Are Slip-and-Fall Cases Resolved?
Your slip-and-fall attorney will negotiate with the property owner and the owner’s attorney and insurance company. If a quick settlement is offered to you directly, do not accept it before you’ve discussed the offer with your attorney.
Most slip-and-fall claims are settled out-of-court when the attorneys meet and hammer out an agreement that’s acceptable to everyone who is involved.
But if your claim is contested or if no acceptable settlement offer is made in the private negotiations, your attorney will take the case to trial, explain to a jury what happened, and ask that jury to order the payment of your compensation.
What About Slip-and-Fall Injuries on Public Property?
What’s your recourse if you sustain a slip-and-fall injury at a public location such as a park, a public sidewalk, or a school, library, or other government building? Can you bring a claim against the government to recover compensation?
For most victims, the answer is yes, but instead of five years, a victim has only ninety days to bring an injury claim against the state of Missouri or a county or municipal government agency. You must contact a lawyer at once after you have been treated for your injury or injuries.
What About Slip-and-Fall Injuries at Work?
If you suffer an on-the-job slip-and-fall injury in Missouri, in most cases, you will not be allowed to file a personal injury claim against your employer. Instead, you will likely be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
In Missouri, workers’ compensation covers all medical costs arising from a work-related injury, and it partially reimburses an injured worker for his or her lost wages. If you slip, fall, and sustain an injury at work:
- Immediately seek medical attention.
- Report the injury to your employer as quickly as possible.
- Seek legal guidance promptly from a Jefferson County premises liability lawyer.
What Else Should You Know About Slip-and-Fall Injuries?
Premises liability lawyers work on a contingent fee basis. You pay no attorney’s fee unless and until your attorney acquires your compensation with a negotiated settlement or a jury verdict.
If for any reason you are not compensated, you pay the attorney nothing. Your first legal consultation is also provided with no cost and with no obligation.
If you’ve been injured in a slip-and-fall incident, and especially if your injury is preventing you from returning to work, you cannot afford to wait. Contact a Missouri premises liability attorney immediately after you’ve been treated for your injury or injuries.